From college to the NFL, Gary has always been a walk-on. But it’s not how your start but how you finish. In college, Gary finished from Rutgers as the team’s defensive MVP. In the NFL became a Team Captain and a Superbowl Champion.
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Bridging the GAP from walk-on in college to Superbowl Champ
I want to welcome everybody to this show. Please remember to subscribe, rate and review. We are focusing on Attitude Booster number four, which is, “Do more than you are paid for.” The guest that we have is someone special. It’s somebody that you’re going to learn from. It is somebody who has lived these principles and who has actually put them into a book and into a digital product called Champions Academy. This gentleman played linebacker for the Super Bowl Champion, Indianapolis Colts, and his story, his vision, his answers, and his insights are going to help you bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. Our good friend, his name is Mr. Gary Brackett. Gary, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Gary, we were compelled to try to get you on our show. Not only are you a great football player, but I think as a testament to you, you’re a better person. You’re an overcomer and an achiever. We’re here to get the story about how you went from where you were, to how you ended up on the other side of that bridge. How you bridge the gap from that Walk-On at Rutgers to being called, “He may be the smallest linebacker, but what an athlete.” Eighty thousand people are screaming to you.
Our GAPers are going to want to know. We are honored to be with keynote speaker, Gary Brackett. If you guys want to have Gary as a keynote speaker, all you’ve got to do is go to GaryBrackett.com. He is a new author of the book, Winning: From Walk-On to Captain, In Football and Life. He also has an incredible project and digital product on GaryBrackett.com that focuses on the seven pillars of life called Champions Academy. Gary, you’ve got a lot going on. It’s great to have you here.
I’m blessed to be here. We all have stories and testimonies. For me, leading with my testimonies and my stories and the attitude that I had to endure, overcoming some of the things that I did. It’s transferable and it leads me to this day. My secret weapon is my attitude and how to remain positive.
We’re here to get into some of that attitude with you. We have people who are out there that are sitting there going, “Man.” They think they had it tough, but I can only imagine, as a former football player myself, the doubt and limitation that people put on you. Let’s start with this, where did you get your attitude from? What does attitude mean to you?
I can remember, I was in fifth grade and my teacher asked what we want to do when we grow up. I responded, “I want to be a football player.” She told me that was a dumb idea. She said, “No one has ever made it from our small town and no one would ever make it from our small towns. Think of something else.” I did. I said, “I’m going to be a football player.” She sent me to the office for being defiant. I got home. I got in trouble and then my father asked what I got in trouble for. I told him and he told me something that changed my life. He said, “Don’t ever let anyone’s perception of you become your reality.”
For me, that’s where my attitude has begun. When I realized it, I get to control my attitude. It’s not about what others think and say about me. It’s about what I think and what I say about myself. Now, I realized that I had the control in my own hands. I started using that to my advantage and knowing that I get control of this. That’s something that I get to dictate how my attitude shows up every day.
The great Les Brown said that. He must have gotten that from your father or your father might have gotten it from Les Brown. Have you ever listened to Les Brown?Your attitude is your secret weapon. Click To Tweet
I got to spend four days with Les in Orlando. He up my game as a speaker. I highly recommend if you get the opportunity to do that, and I might be able to help you if you’re interested. Les is one of my idols. I love that, “Do not let somebody’s perception become your reality.” That’s good and how blessed you were to have a father that did that.
Talk to me a little bit about when you were a Walk-On at Rutgers. Tell me some of the limiting beliefs. If you could put yourself back there, what did you tell yourself? Did you have a mantra? What would you tell our GAPers when people are telling them they can’t do what they know they can do in their heart and in their gut? What’s the mindset? What’s your advice? What did you tell yourself? What’s your self-talk? When you were proven wrong by people, what were you telling yourself?
When I was initially a Walk-On, my parents refinanced my house twice in order to pay for my education at Rutgers. That third year, there’s no more equity in the house. My dad called me and told me that I had to come home because he couldn’t afford tuition. I ended up getting a scholarship, and the head coach gave me a scholarship. It was emotional and I’m excited.
I went inside the locker room, and one of the players that was there told me, “What’s the commotion?” I’m high-fiving him, “I got a scholarship. I get to stay.” He looked me in my eyes and said, “A scholarship? You should worry about starting.” To that point, I never thought about being a starter. I want a scholarship. I wanted the meal plan so I could eat. I had to limit the smallest move possible. We wanted to keep expenses down low.
When he told me that I should be a starter, it changed the way I thought about myself because many of us make a deal with ourselves. We make a deal with life of what we want. Then life is going to say, “You want a scholarship. You want to play for your food. This is the bare minimum you have to do.” When you challenge life, I know I want to be a starter. I want to be the best player out here. Life says, “You want to be the best? I need you to show up early. I need you to stay late. I need you in every play to play it like it’s your last down. If you do these things, then I reward you for what you asked for.” That’s exactly what I did. I made that deal and I never looked back.
For our GAPers out there, the question is, to you, what deal have you made with yourself? We talk about at the quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions you ask yourself about your life. Those questions that you’re asking yourself, that story that you keep playing, that’s the deal you’re cutting. Gary, that’s deep. You mentioned your parents. I want to know what their names were and what were their professions?
My mother, Reverend Sonia Brackett, and she was a reverend and a registered nurse. My father was a Vietnam vet. He had odd jobs. His last job was filling the propane tanks in yards. He would go and fill those.
They sound like beautiful people.
That’s what my book is about. In my first year in the NFL, I lost my father, my mother and my brother in the sixteen months span. It was a lot of adversity. I’m a Christian. At that time, you question everything. You question God and your existence. I can remember reading the poem, Footprints. In that poem, it tells you about a man questioning God, “Where are you in my loneliest times? Why are there only one set of footprints?” That’s when God responds, “I was carrying you.” That’s what propelled me. I did not realize that I under-dead by how I live my life every single day. I still talk to my parents daily and do the ways that I interact with people and how I live my life.
If your mother was a Reverend, I know there have got to be 1 or 2 nuggets. Give me some bread for our GAPers. When you think about her wisdom and her words, what comes to your mind? What speaks to your heart when you think of her? What is she telling you?
I went from not having a scholarship to being a Walk-On, to then being the Captain. I’m coming home like, “Mom, I’m the captain of all these five-star athletes who are bigger, stronger, faster. I’ve got to lead them. How do you lead?” She said, “I’m going to give you a play on my playbook,” which is the Bible. She said, “The Bible says the greatest among us will serve. In order for you to be a leader, you have to serve.” That mentality served me well because on the football field, it was never about my own personal accolades or individual stats. It’s about helping others reach theirs. If I help the team get on track, if I help the defensive line to know where they need to go, the linebackers, and communicating well with everything else and serve everyone else, then they took it in their jobs, then that’s going to make my job easier.
The service to others not only with the book is manifesting itself through your digital product called Champions Academy. The Champions Academy, the seven pillars of life, you can get on GaryBrackett.com. Gary, for our GAPers, give us a little brief overview. If our GAPers come and they sign up and they walk the seven pillars with you, what is this going to do for them? What’s the purpose of the program? Tell us about it so we know.For you to be a leader, you have to serve. Click To Tweet
You know what’s crazy, and I’m sure you feel the same way, that’s why you have a blog to share. I believe in this notion that success leaves clues. I have not only been able to experience success for myself but I’ve been around many successful people. I almost feel guilty about the knowledge that I’ve obtained over these years. I get asked all the time, “Can I meet with you for coffee? Can I get on the phone with you?” That doesn’t scale.
What I did is I put all that knowledge inside a digital course to help entrepreneurs gain clarity on exactly what they want to do. At the end of the life, it’s not about success. It is about fulfillment. You’re not going to be fulfilled unless you get clear about what your vision is. What are your personal values? What exactly is your budget? What kind of relationship do you want with your wife and kids?
If you walk the course, it hones in on you taking a personal assessment on yourself. I call it the Championship Framework, short for CHAMP. CHAMP for me stands for Currently assess your current position. H, Hone in your desired destination. A, this would Apply to 80/20 principle. M, it’s taking Massive action. P is the constant Pursuit of that championship transformation. If I walk people through the seven pillars and all these errors in the CHAMP Framework, that helps them gain clarity, get clear about what they want out of their lives.
Gary, you have been fortunate to be around some of the most successful people or people that are considered to be the most successful people in America. I’m guessing that some of those are in the book, Winning: From Walk-On to Captain, In Football and Life. Love adversity is number eight on the Attitude Boosters, just so you know. I’m sure when you get the Attitude Boosters, you’re going to say, “Glenn, that’s it.” Can you tell us a little bit about the book besides the adversity you face? Anything else in there that might pique our interest?
For underdogs, you understand how much you have to work to get everything you want out of life. The book talks about the journey of this underdog. No one ever expects him to make it to the college football division one, let alone be a captain of the Super Bowl Championship team. Let alone have a record for the most solo tackle that any player in any Super Bowl in history. I had that record against the Saints.
In addition to that, the book is actually getting turned into a movie. You could catch the movie clips on Brackett.movie, and you could see a trailer. We actually shot a promotional trailer for the book and get turned into a movie. We’re crowdfunding this movie, so we can bring it to fruition. Not only do you get to read your book, it’s actually get turned into a movie. I need to be a part of that process as well.
Gary, the underdogs out there, the underdogs that are reading, the people that are facing what people would say is an unclimbable mountain. You’ve given us a ton. You’ve dropped a lot of good knowledge. Is there anything words of encouragement to them that maybe you could pull out to speak to them?
I coached a lot of people that are in situations and they’re down on their luck. They don’t know what to do. They have this mountain or peak, and they struggled climbing. Many times, people think they’ve got to do more. One of the biggest things that I realize is this notion of addition by subtraction. What I mean by that, when things are adding up, you need to start subtracting. That may be people from your lives that were negative. That might be bad habits that you have like drinking, smoking, staying up late.
When you hit rock bottom and you want to climb, the reason you can’t climb that hill is because your bags are too heavy. You need to lighten the load. You need to get clear on exactly what you want to do. Get rid of all that other additional baggage and then you’re going like, “It’s not as heavy as it once was before.” You’re not carrying those burdens. You’re able to place those burdens down. Now the climb becomes easier. Then as you realize that the hills are getting steep again, it’s getting heavy again. What else do you need to drop?
I remember watching Steve Jobs when every one of his new iPhone drops. He had on the same shirt. Many people think in order to climb the mountain, in order to reach success, it’s this complicated formula, “A squared plus B squared.” No, it’s not. Keep on stacking good days. One percent better every single day is 37 times better for the year. One percent worse every single day, 0.3% is where you end up at the end of the year.
Fantastic knowledge from Gary Brackett. One of the things we talk about with our GAPers in introducing this thing is that there are only a few things that make 80% of the difference in your life. You’ve got to find those few things. When you do, you’ve got to keep finding and then spend more of your time on those few things.You need to get clear on what you want to do and get rid of additional baggage. Click To Tweet
I’m sure as a football guy, you know that these coordinators got 58 different coverages and a bunch of craziness. You can’t play free when you’ve got all that. Let’s keep the defense simple. Is that what you found when you played when you were at your highest success as a defensive player? Maybe it wasn’t simple that your scheme was easy, and it wasn’t over-complicated compared to maybe some other years when you weren’t successful in football.
This came from Coach Dungy, this addition by subtraction. We lost two games in a row. This is a team who won eight in a row. We lost two games. In NFL, when you lose two games, people get fired. It’s a 12:00 meeting on Monday. Everyone is in there at 11:15. The room was quiet. No one was talking. Coach Dungy comes into the room at 12:00. He says, “If this was New England, five guys get fired. If this was Philly, four guys get fired and Washington, three guys. I’m not going to fire anybody. The same team that won eight games in a row is the same team that lost two games in a row.”
“I hear everyone is talking about the noise. We’re too simple on defense. Offense, we don’t have those plays to cause confusion. I’m going to do one better. We’re not going to add anything. We’re going to subtract. What we’re going to do is we’re going to have three players on defense and we’re going to do what we do better than the opponent does what they do. We’re going to line up and make them beat us.” It was amazing when we did that, we went on another winning streak.
You could play faster. You could play free. You could execute the way you wanted to, and you could find your inner greatness, which is no question what you do. Gary, we are going to now finish this show with something we call Knowledge Through the Decades. I want you to go back. You may or may not remember when you were born. Some of our guests claim that they do. We’re going to ask you what the attitude lesson of birth is. If you can remember when you were born, great. If not, Gary is a great husband and father. You might give a shout-out to your wife. That’s always a good idea. What’s the attitude lesson from birth?
First of all, like you said, shout out to Dr. Ragan Brackett. She’s a doctor, so she is my official retirement plan. On the lesson from birth, my mind goes to when you try to walk and how difficult it is. This whole notion of fall 7 times, stand up 8. As a child, when you tried to walk for the first time, you felt miserable. Somehow, look at you now walking. Some of the people give up easily on a 1st, 2nd step that they never realize that not only they can walk, they can sprint.
The bottom line is babies never think about failing. Failing is just part of it. That’s our lesson for the GAPers that Gary brings to us is that, as Les said, “You’ve got to make ‘no’ your vitamin. You’ve got to make failure your vitamin. You’ve got to feed on that.” When babies fail, they don’t know they fail because we all sit there and encourage them.
The other lesson is the reason you kept trying to walk was because there was somebody standing there with their arms out and their hands out. Attitude Booster number one, “Be nice,” or encouraging you saying, “You can do it.” GAPers, let’s make sure we’re doing that for the people in our lives. You mentioned being in fifth grade when your teacher sent you down, but when you were ten years old, I want you to go back when you were ten and tell me the attitude lesson in life you learned at ten.
At ten, I’m going to go with the golden rule. I’m the one up it and I’m going to say the championship rule. The golden rule is, “Treat others how you want to get treated.” Everyone is different. Some people want to get treated differently. I can’t treat you how I wanted to be treated. I want to treat you better than you expect to get treated. That’s the championship rule. Treat others better than what they want to get treated.
Was there a story when you were ten that manifested itself in you? Were you not treated well? Were you ever bullied as a kid? How did that come out at ten? What’s the story behind that?
I was always the peacemaker in school. There were bullies and there were the uncool kids. I was the cool athlete, and I couldn’t get in trouble because I always had sports to play. I had this notion to me to not pick on people that can’t defend themselves. If that went down on my watch, I was going to step up and do something about it. I’m not a guy who’s going to sit around unless someone gets bullied.
Gary Brackett, the protector. Now, you’re hopping around a little bit, you’re twenty. You’re in college. Good times in college when you were twenty. What’s your attitude lesson for our GAPers that are twenty. What did you learn about attitude when you were twenty?
In your twenties, you’re going to start sowing those seeds. What deal do you want to make with yourself? What you’re doing in your twenties is going to have ramifications for the rest of your life. What deal are you going to make in your twenties?
That’s probably the most powerful thing you gave us. I hadn’t heard that one. You’re making a deal with yourself, whether you know it or not. That’s the other thing too. If you’re reading this blog, you know it. Now, you’re 30. You’re going, “I’m getting old.” Thirty years old, I’m guessing you were playing for the Colts at that time. I’d love to know your attitude lesson from 30.Treat others better than how they want to be treated. Click To Tweet
I retired in 31. Nine years in NFL, I retired. My wife was going on her third 14-hour shift in the hospital. My daughter was five years old. I’m going to come home from another outing of golf where I stink 120. I have a few alcoholic beverages in. My daughter asked me, “Dad, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was like, “What? Do you see this ring? Do you see this house, these cars? What are you talking about what I want to be when I grow up?”
What I did is I went back to school and I got my MBA. I think when you’re in your 30s, you should think about you too. Many of us get stuck in our 30s and feel like you finished learning, “I’ve been to school. I’ve been at college. I’ve got my MBA. I’m in this career.” Now, 5 or 6 times, the average American changes their profession.
When you’re in your 30s, that’s the right age. You probably have children by now. It’s constantly learning. For me, it’s about looking at my toolbox and realizing I’ve been using a hammer for 30 years. The challenge when using the hammer is everything looks like a nail. Get inside of that toolbox, “This is a calculator. What does this do? A projector, a ruler.” Start sharping in those other tools in that toolbox because as you get older, you’re going to start realizing you’re going to need different kinds of tools to start hitting some of these challenges. That’s what my 30s were all about.
I always say, “You show me a leader that stops learning, I’ll show you a leader that’s in a rut.” The only thing that differs between a rut and a grave are the dimensions. You talked about going to the tool, reinventing yourself. Many people that are out there reading this, you may be walking on the beach. You may be sitting in the sauna. You may be on the treadmill. I hope that you give a thought to what Gary said.
Gary, you’re a 40-year-old. We’re going to get to play one last thing. I know that you’re an entrepreneur. You own several restaurants in town, the Stacked Pickle. We’ve got to give a shout-out to those. I have had many great meals and cold beverages there. We’re grateful to you and your knowledge and what you’ve brought to us. When you turned 40, I’m sure you had a birthday party and you sat there and went, “I’m 40.” What is your attitude lesson? What did you say to yourself? Where are you at now with all this?
When I looked at leadership, I looked at three things. Are they competent? Are they credible? Can they make a positive impact? By the time you get to 40, you could answer those three questions. In my 40s, it’s about making an impact. Now, I’m the point guard. I’m going to ditch the ball. I want to get other people involved.
You’ve always wanted to be a point guard.
That’s the gray spot. I got the ball. I know what position.
Did you play a little hoop back in the day?
I average a double-double in high school. I was actually a four in our system. We’re a small school, but I was big. I still play down low even now. Running an appointment and business in your life, I’ve had experiences with so much with grief, success, investing, relationships, raising kids. For me, I see errors. Some of my friends who I see and follow me and stuff, I shoot them a call and then I encourage them. They’re like, “I never thought about that.” They think they’re in this bubble on social media, they can post, “I’m at work, hungover. I’m going to get through this today.” You’re a leader at work. What if someone in your work saw that? I think being in a position where I could be the point guard and try to set people up for success, that’s what my voice is going to be all about.
Gary, I can tell you in honor of your wonderful mother, Reverend Sonia and your father, you created an impact for the GAPers. You created an impact on the show. This is a show that’s going to live and I know it gets played over and over. You gave us more than you were paid for. I can tell you that for sure. We are grateful to have you on our show. I look forward to raising you up and helping you however I can. We want to thank you so much for being a part of the show.
Thanks for having me.
- Champions Academy
- Gary Brackett
- Winning: From Walk-On to Captain, In Football and Life
- Les Brown
- Stacked Pickle
About Gary Lawrence Brackett
Gary Lawrence Brackett (born May 23, 1980 in Glassboro, New Jersey) is an American football linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League. He was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He played college football at Rutgers. Brackett attended Glassboro High School in Glassboro, New Jersey. He was a two-time All-South Jersey selection, a two-time All-Group I choice, and a two-time All-Tri-County Conference choice.Bridging The GAP From Walk-On In College To Superbowl Champ
Brackett attended Glassboro High School in Glassboro, New Jersey. He was a two-time All-South Jersey selection, a two-time All-Group I choice, and a two-time All-Tri-County Conference choice.